The poet Elizabeth Alexander once asked, "What if the mightiest word is love?"
For the 280 men and one woman executed in Texas between 2000 and 2012, "love" was the mightiest word — by an overwhelming margin, with three out of five saying the word in their last living moments.

Dylan C. Lathrop and GOOD created this graphic with a word cloud generated from the offenders' final thoughts shortly before they were put to death. The word "love" was used by 173 of the 281 people. That's more than 60 percent. Nearly half of them mentioned religion in some form, using "God" and "Jesus" and "Lord," to name a few. And note the petitions of prayer, expressions of apology and notions of family are present in their minds. Some were silent, others were defiant — and I'm guessing that's why "warden" shows up so prominently.

Share Your Reflection



and the greatest of these is love...

It's an interesting project and graphic, but I get the feeling that I'm somehow supposed to feel sympathy for these people. While I am torn about the death penalty, I really don't believe that some one like Jesse Hernandez, who "admitted to beating 10-month-old Karlos Borjas with a flashlight before the child died of head injuries" has ANY qualities the world would find useful. Even if he used the word Love in his final statement. Oh, well. Should've thought about that word while you were beating a ten month old to death. 

Lorraine, I don't think you're supposed to feel other than what you actually do. The data was, simply put, surprising. At the end of life, these people who are often referred to as animals, something less than human, choose their last words often to be about love, family, and God. It stirs and challenges the mind, non? And, I think it's also human for the rest of us to be able to embrace that humanity and still hold them accountable for their crimes — no matter what form of punishment they receive. Thanks for weighing in on this graphic.

It appears that most of those condemned men had discovered a good deal more of the depth of their humanity than you've yet discovered. I wish you the opportunity to learn that you are no better or worse than any others.

Many organized religions say "thou shall not kill" yet isn't execution just collective killing? Punishment implies suffering, repentance and redemption in the transgressor and also to serve as a deterrent. For many infractions, this is usually the case HOWEVER does capital punishment ever eliminate or nearly eliminate premeditated murder? Can such people even BE punished? 
I don't suggest society deal with murder lightly - such killers must be permanently removed from the opportunity to repeat - but the circumstances of life, influences and motivations that come to make another person's life so cheap and disposable are what require attention.

Capital Punishment is a form of Premeditated Murder. 

I find it troubling that many people who are against abortion support capital punishment.  How can that be?  What happened to the sanctity of life? 

Amazing stuff

     Perhaps you might experiment with empathy.     My wife walked out when I was 41 and our youngest, a boy, was 4. Within the first three or four years I came to grasp, on a very real and physical and, I believe, human level, how a parent could cast a child out a window, or down the stairs. At certain difficult moments, most often- no, always- while preparing dinner I would have only one dominant thought... I MUST have peace and QUIET!!!  NO one who knows me would have imagined me capable of such a depraved act,   but I've come damned close.

How does empathy justify actions of killers? Yes, I have been to a breaking point like you but to follow that thought out is a line that few will cross...I realize the madness is in me however, I realize it is that: madness...know it and control it. I believe the condemned referenced God because they realize in the end that knowing Him and understanding how He loves us could have saved them earlier in life. With that thought, I sympathize with them. Unfortunately, the life/lives they took were innocent and undeserving of the brutality they received and no amount of empathy with their rage is going to every justify their actions.
With that empathy you express, I would encourage you to seek to help others. I do not judge you...I've been there, too.

Thats funny but understand, not the wife leaving part but the peace and quiet

There is something very profound and beautiful in the last moments of any being on earth, which makes these words more meaningful

An image of the possibility of change, even at the very end moments of life. Perhaps it is not what they did to receive the death penalty, but what has happened in their lives since. I do not condone the horror of their crimes, but rather am hopeful that their final words will have a positive impact on those who see this graphic.